Tonight’s episode of Ben And Kate was about realizing and accepting shortcomings, from parental expectations to understanding that no idea is worth 11 beers and all of your buddy’s martial arts training manuals. “B-Squad” had some fantastic laugh-out-loud lines, I thought it was one of the funnier line-for-line episodes of the bunch. But like the glue holding up BJ’s map during her faux newscast, it didn’t fully work.
In honor of the title of the episode, “B-Squad,” let’s start with the B-plot. BJ’s mom, Wendy (Jane Seymour), pays her daughter a visit. Of course, their relationship is built on “a delicate web of passive aggression and lies,” forcing BJ to come up with elaborate deceptions to convince Wendy her life is better than it actually is. BJ owns a golf club! She gets proposed to, a lot! She has no ear lobe fat!
Look, I’ll happily watch Jane Seymour play her variations on her Wedding Crashers character over and over again (see: How I Met Your Mother’s “Aldrin Justice”) as long as it stops her from selling terrible jewelry (and making ugly murals in my city). Her interaction with Rob Corddry justified his casting. (Well, so did the conversation about shower chicken. No one plays creepy funny like Corddry.) But with Wendy’s introduction, we didn’t learn much about BJ other than what we already know: BJ is shallow and manipulative, and she has a heart of fool’s gold. Everything BJ did was in line with her character, especially feeling all sentimental when she learned that her mother was proud enough of her to sleep with her boyfriend (“I never thought that you’d approve of my life enough to try and ruin it”). Considering we know BJ was born in Texas, yet still has a British accent, Wendy’s visit left me hanging. Seymour was stunt casting, not an expansion of the Ben And Kate world.
Similarly, Tommy was such a disappointment this episode. Don’t get me wrong, Echo Kellum was great (“I am Paolo!”), but with the introduction of Brittany Snow as a potential love interest before the winter break, I was hoping that there might actually be some development on the Tommy front other than reiterating his love for the Fox siblings. Instead, Tommy didn’t really do anything this episode that couldn’t have been accomplished without him there. I understand that a one-off episode was necessary to introduce the show to new audiences who might tune in after the winter hiatus, but Ben And Kate had such a nice momentum going. Kellum has proven himself as worthy of more than just a token funny line and well-placed scrunched facial expression. For someone who loves backstories so much, Tommy doesn’t actually have one.
Rather than give Tommy a character to work with, the episode gives him a doppelganger in one of the many children Ben steals from school. These kids aren’t the gifted ones, they’re the B-squad. And Ben steals them. Why? Not really sure. To make Kate feel better, possibly, but that seems out of the range of even Ben’s stupidity. How? Also, not totally explained. Why hasn't the teacher gone running to the cops after a rando “uncle” has taken her entire class of children and brought them to his house? We’ll just let that one go.
Maddie’s placement in the B-squad has deeply upset Kate, if only because of the implication that her single mother household is the reason Maddie has ended up with the Normals. I liked Kate’s vulnerability when it came to Maddie questioning who her father is, but was she upset because Maddie’s curiosity about her dad began earlier than expected or because of Kate’s own insecurities about her parental quality? These are two very real fears that deserve separate exploration. Kate’s motivation this episode was further muddled by tying her own monumental insecurities into Ben’s realization that if he actually followed through with an idea, he might actually be one of those rich kids he seems to hate so much. The idea of Ben and Kate helping each other to get through life’s hurdles is the premise of the entire show, but their own issues this episode never coalesced enough to share storyline without it feeling scattered and pulled in too many different directions.
- I really wish Ben And Kate got to do a Christmas episode. This show was made for Christmas episodes, all togetherness and earnestness and sentimentality. I was bummed watching other shows fake those elements, when I knew Ben And Kate could do them so well.
- “I gotta say, guys, death makes me chatty.”
- “It’s like a sleepover in your mouth!” Happy to see Rickety Cricket has recovered nicely.
- “It’s about my health. I’m having the dark circles underneath my eyes removed by having fat injected from my ear lobes.”
- “Wonderful decor! Purple colors! Yellow colors!” All of Paolo was great. I want Paolo to come back.
- “No napkin required. He just gets in with me when he’s full.”
- The end tags of Ben And Kate are easily my favorite part of the show and this was the best one. If I was being honest, I would just transcribe the entire scene. I started laughing at Ben’s face and totally lost it when he ran out from behind the desk not wearing any pants. Aw, Ben, I missed you.